The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness
The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Lobster defamation? Phone-pole wars? Your weekly non political political stories

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India from Tibet after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

The big idea

Lobster defamation? Phone-pole wars? Your weekly nonpolitical political stories

Maine’s lobster industry sues a California aquarium. A fight over telephone poles slows internet expansion. A scary story out of Tennessee. Vermont experiments with a cash-for-treatment answer to addiction. These are your weekly nonpolitical yet political stories. 

If you’re new here: The Daily 202 generally focuses on national politics and foreign policy. But as passionate believers in local news, and in redefining “politics” as something that hits closer to home than Beltway “Senator X Hates Senator Y” stories, we try to bring you a weekly mix of pieces with significant local, national or international importance.

Please keep sending your links to news coverage of political stories that are getting overlooked. They don’t have to be from this week! The submission link is right under this column. Make sure to say whether I can use your first name, last initial and location. Anonymous is okay, too, as long as you give a location.

Maine lobster industry claws back at aquarium

Maine’s lobster industry is suing the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation over allegedly false and defamatory statements about the way fisherfolks in Vacationland harvest the crustaceans, Lori Valigra reported for the Bangor Daily News.

The Aquarium publishes “Seafood Watch,” which tracks seafood sustainability and rates individual catches from individual states on a color-coded list. Last fall, it listed Atlantic lobsters on its “red” (avoid) list, down from “yellow,” meaning it was ok to eat.

“The lawsuit challenges the aquarium’s claims that ‘scientific data show that Maine lobster fishing practices are responsible for harming North Atlantic right whales,” Valigra reported. 

Plaintiffs want the aquarium to take down its warnings and seek monetary damages for lost business.

The politics: This has it all. A locally vital economic resource, interstate commerce, environmentalism. Trade-offs.

Unskew these poles for broadband

The federal government and the states are spending tens of billions of dollars on an ambitious campaign to extend high-speed internet access to all Americans. But that effort has become hung up on an invention that dates back to the telegraph: the telephone pole.

“The poles are owned by electric or phone companies that often aren’t getting public money to build out broadband, triggering skirmishes that some internet providers blame for slowing needed upgrades,” Ryan Tracy reported for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Pole owners say they add other lines, like fiber-optic cable, in return for compensation for “make ready” costs, which include “replacing old poles or moving existing wires,” Tracy reported.
  • But internet providers say utilities “often drag their feet in allowing access or pad their fees.”

Internet providers are pushing to get the Federal Communications Commission to get utilities to shoulder more pole-replacement costs. But in the meantime, rural communities have to wait.

The politics: Infrastructure, weak. Fissures in the private sector are stalling a major public-sector investment in something increasingly important in the 21st Century economy.

What happened at this Tennessee traffic stop?

There are a lot of twists and turns in Anita Wadhwani’s piece for the Tennessee Lookout, and The Daily 202 doesn’t have enough space to do it justice, so please read the whole thing.

They were pulled over in February for “dark tint and traveling in the left lane while not actively passing.” Now Bianca Clayborne and Deonte Williams of Georgia are fighting to get their five young kids back from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services.

  • A trooper arrested Williams after finding five grams of marijuana, a misdemeanor. Clayborne was not arrested.
  • She was allowed to follow the trooper, who had Williams in his car, to go bail him out.
  • Six hours after the stop, as she waited on a bench, officials came and took her 4-month-old baby, whom she had been breastfeeding, and children ages 2, 3, 5 and 7.

Authorities “said there was probable cause that the children were neglected and there was no ‘less drastic’ alternative to taking the children from their parents,” Wadhwani reported.

The parents have taken legal action to get their kids back.

The politics: It’s hard to imagine anyone could come through the past 3-4 years and not see that who polices whom and with what outcome is political.

Vermont tries cash to cure addiction

From my home state of Vermont comes this intriguing story of an experimental program that rewards people addicted to drugs with cash for taking regular tests — not even for testing negative, just for taking the test.

“The program is based on an approach known as contingency management, which helps people overcome unwanted behaviors by offering small rewards, usually money,” Colin Flanders reported for Seven Days Vermont. “It's helped people quit smoking, lose weight and drink less. Many studies have also shown that paying participants is highly effective in treating cocaine and methamphetamine addictions.”

The politics: Drug addiction and the fentanyl epidemic cry out for innovative policy responses. This bears watching.


See an important political story that doesn’t quite fit traditional politics coverage? Flag it for us here.

What’s happening now

Hunter Biden sues laptop repair shop owner, citing invasion of privacy

Hunter Biden has filed a sweeping countersuit against the computer repair shop owner who said that Biden dropped his laptop off and never claimed it, a legal action that escalates the battle over how provocative data and images of the president’s son were obtained nearly five years ago,” Matt Viser reports.

  • “In the counterclaim, filed on Friday morning in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Biden and his attorneys say that John Paul Mac Isaac had no legal right to copy and distribute private information. They accuse him and others of six counts of invasion of privacy, including conspiracy to obtain and distribute the data.”

Turkey backs Finland for NATO membership, snubs Sweden

“Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has played spoiler for much of the past 10 months. On Friday, he announced that Finland’s membership request was being sent to Turkey’s parliament for ratification, paving the way for the alliance to grow,” Emily Rauhala reports.

  • But Erdogan will not sign off on Sweden’s bid without additional steps, meaning the Nordic neighbors who vowed to join NATO ‘hand in hand’ will not, in fact, join together.”

China’s Xi to meet Putin in Russia next week

China’s Foreign Ministry and the Kremlin said in separate statements on Friday that Xi will visit Russia from Monday to Wednesday. The Kremlin said the two would discuss ways of ‘deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation,’ adding that ‘a number of important bilateral documents will be signed’ during Xi’s visit,” Lily Kuo reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

After Silicon Valley Bank collapse, Washington asks: Is it to blame?

“One week after the stunning collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, policymakers in Washington are confronting the uncomfortable prospect that they could have anticipated the trouble sooner and acted faster to head off financial tumult,” Tony Romm and Jonathan O’Connell report.

Trump-commissioned report undercut his claims of dead and double voters

“Researchers paid by Trump’s team had ‘high confidence’ of only nine dead voters in Fulton County, defined as ballots that may have been cast by someone else in the name of a deceased person. They believed there was a ‘potential statewide exposure’ of 23 such votes across the Peach State — or 4,977 fewer than the ‘minimum’ Trump claimed,” Josh Dawsey reports.

Russia is using old oil tankers to bypass export sanctions, risking spills

Russia is using a fleet of older, poorly insured tankers to sidestep Western sanctions on its fossil fuels, raising fears of a potentially catastrophic accident or oil spill as the Kremlin works to finance its invasion of Ukraine, policymakers and environmental advocates said,” Michael Birnbaum reports.

… and beyond

House GOP quietly preps take two of its border push

“House Republicans’ ambitious promises to overhaul border security fizzled as soon as they assumed the majority. They’re preparing for a second attempt anyway,” Politico’s Jordain Carney reports.

  • “Republicans have pitched ideas like reviving the border wall and cracking down on asylum seekers, policies that stand no chance in the Senate but would let them claim a messaging victory — if they can manage to push them through the House.”

Who blew up Nord Stream? Investigators focus on six mysterious passengers on a yacht

“Initial suspicions in many European capitals focused on Russia, which denied any involvement. Analysts speculated that only a state with a sophisticated military would have been able to carry out such a complicated, underwater attack,” the WSJ’s Bojan Pancevski, William Boston and Sune Engel Rasmussen report.

  • Investigators now, however, are focused on [a rented yacht named] the Andromeda and the six people it carried. German officials who have been briefed on the probe said they were told some of the people who rented the yacht were Ukrainian. Others had Bulgarian passports since determined to be forgeries, they said.”

The Biden agenda

Biden’s TikTok plan echoes failed Trump bid China called a ‘smash and grab’

“Three years after the Trump administration failed to force the sale of TikTok to an American buyer, the Biden administration is trying again, charging forward into the same legal and constitutional minefield with just as little evidence that the short-video app poses an actual threat,” Drew Harwell and Cat Zakrzewski report.

  • The Biden administration’s push to force TikTok’s Chinese owner ByteDance to sell off one of the world’s most popular apps has gained more bipartisan support than a similar Trump attempt in 2020, and the app has in recent years emerged as a major lightning rod for lawmakers unnerved by China’s technological prowess and social media’s effect on children and teens.”

House GOP hunts for evidence that Biden family deals were improper

“House Republicans on Thursday released financial records showing that Hunter Biden and other relatives of President Biden received more than $1 million in 2017 from an associate who had entered into a business deal with a Chinese energy company, as they hunted for evidence that the president and his family have profited improperly from his position,” the New York Times’s Luke Broadwater reports.

Biden to host Irish prime minister on St. Patrick’s Day

Today, President Biden is welcoming Ireland’s prime minister to the White House on St. Patrick’s Day, continuing a tradition that had been upended by the pandemic in recent years. The planned Oval Office meeting is part of a busy itinerary for Leo Varadkar, known as Ireland’s taoiseach, that also includes a luncheon on Capitol Hill with congressional leaders and Biden,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

The most common causes of workplace injuries, visualized

We’re getting hurt less at work, Andrew Van Dam explains. “The drop in workplace injuries occurred primarily in the largest categories: Overexertion injuries including those caused by heavy lifting. Repetitive-stress injuries. Slips and falls. Contact injuries, which typically involve getting hit by something, like a piece of equipment,” he writes.

Hot on the left

Wealthy executives make millions trading competitors’ stock with remarkable timing

“These transactions are captured in a vast IRS dataset of stock trades made by the country’s wealthiest people, part of a trove of tax data leaked to ProPublica. ProPublica analyzed millions of those trades, isolated those by corporate executives trading in companies related to their own, then identified transactions that were anomalous — either because of the size of the bets or because individuals were trading a particular stock for the first time or using high-risk, high-return options for the first time,” Robert Faturechi and Ellis Simani report for ProPublica.

  • “The records give no indication as to why executives made particular trades or what information they possessed; they may have simply been relying on years of broad industry knowledge to make astute bets at fortuitous moments. Still, the records show many instances where the executives bought and sold with exquisite timing.”
  • Such trading records have never been publicly available. Even the SEC itself doesn’t have such a comprehensive database. The records provide an unprecedented glimpse into how the titans of American industry make themselves even wealthier in the stock market.

Hot on the right

The Federalist Society debates what’s next for the conservative legal movement

“As the first student symposium since the Supreme Court handed conservatives a historic package of victories on gun rights, religious freedom, environmental deregulation, and, of course, abortion, the weekend offered a window into the shifting priorities and preoccupations of the youngest and most elite members of the conservative legal movement, at a time when the future of the movement as a whole is quietly unsettled,” Ian Ward writes for Politico Magazine.

Today in Washington

At 11:45 a.m., Biden will leave the White House for the Friends of Ireland lunch.

Biden will host a reception for Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach of Ireland, at 5 p.m. at the White House.

At 7:30 p.m., Biden will leave for Delaware.

In closing

St. Patty’s

What is Joe Biden’s plan to get One Direction back together?

Thanks for reading. See you next week.